20th Manga Division Critiques
What Goes Into the Jury Selections
There's something I realized only after becoming a juror: In the Japan Media Arts Festival, you should be paying attention not just to the award winners but to each and every one of the Jury Selections as well. I'm embarrassed to say that I had previously given the Jury Selections relatively short shrift.When the jurors meet to make their final decisions, they each come to the table with a kind of "favorites list" from reading through the entries beforehand, and they share their thoughts on these works in detail. A juror will sometimes realize something about a work that he didn't notice when he was simply reading on his own, and the discussion can grow heated. This year as always, it was through this process that the Grand Prize and other major prize winners were selected, but it's important to understand that the 29 Jury Selections were named to that list after undergoing exactly the same kind of debate."Reason for Award" statements aren't appended to each of the Jury Selections, so I'd like to comment here on a couple of titles that seemed particularly representative of 2016 to me. Among an increasing number of works that feature fujoshi (girls fond of male homoeroticism in manga), TSUDUI's Days: Lost in "Boys' Love" World has a particularly powerful appeal. I think this owes to its freshly conceived protagonist, who is free of self-loathing and displays a healthy dose of self-esteem. She has something she loves, and friends she can share it with, and we simply see her enjoying days filled with happiness. It's a catchy subject, and the universal and highly contemporary theme affirming diverse lifestyles unfolds with superb gags. On a different note, the French entry PHALLAINA suggested new possibilities for digital graphic novels by synchronizing horizontal scrolling on a smartphone with a story that involves hallucinations of whales.I will leave the award-winning works to the other jurors here, except for just one thing. As exemplified by titles like BLUE GIANT, which took the Grand Prize, and Harmful City, which took an Excellence Award, I felt that this was a year when the "virtuosity" of the artists really stood out in many of the works. I personally tend to be drawn to works that stand out for something dramatically unique, or that throw me a curve ball, but this year's entries reminded me once again of the appeal of more straightforward works into which an artist has poured every last measure of his passion and skill.